The Kabul community, the home of the Hazaras, was stunned by wave after wave of attacks | Taliban News
Kabul, Afghanistan Amena said her family came to the Afghan capital from Bamyan Province six years ago to seek better opportunities and safety. They settled in Dasht-e-Barchi, a predominantly Hazara Shia Muslim community in western Kabul.
Last month, 85 people were killed in the bombing outside Sayed-ul-Shuhada High School in Barchi, most of them female students between the ages of 11 and 17. Among them is Amena’s teenage niece.
“We came here to work, but all we found was death,” said 50-year-old Amena, adding that her family is now considering returning to their hometown of Waras, where many female students have been killed.
The relative safety of the community-home to approximately 1 million people-attracts Amena and other Hazaras from war-torn countries, as well as those who return from here. refugee Life in neighboring Pakistan and Iran.
As South Asian countries plunged into civil war in the 1990s, Kabul became a battleground for armed groups to fight for control of the country, and Balchi became a safe haven for the Hazaras.
We are not going anywhere.We have honor, we can’t be scared away
But in recent years, the neighbourhood has become the target of brutal attacks, many of which have been claimed by ISIL, sparking calls Hazara Genocide People say that the Kabul government has failed to solve this problem.
In recent years, the government has made some efforts to protect Barchi by authorizing additional security measures for nearby areas during the annual Ashura celebrations. Since 2011, the commemoration of the death of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad has been attacked at least 3 times. President Ashraf Ghani also unequivocally condemned every attack in the region.
However, for the residents of Barchi, these efforts are not enough. They said that there is no safe place in Baqi. Armed groups attacked the education examination center, Wrestling hall, ID card distribution center, mosque, Maternity Ward,last month, Girls’ school.
At least seven people were killed in two games on Saturday Separate explosion In that area.
Discrimination against Hazaras
The number of Hazaras in Afghanistan has been subject to abuse and state-sponsored discrimination for a decade, the most recent being under the Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001.They were attacked in neighboring Pakistan Armed group Since they are mainly Shia believers, while in Iran, they face outright racism as apparent Afghan refugees and were conscripted into the foreign war in Tehran.
Analysts and officials believe that ISIL is using these attacks to incite Sectarianism In this multi-ethnic country, insecurity is on the rise. There are reports that regional leaders fear that the Taliban will regain power after the United States is about to withdraw troops and establish local armed militias along the ethnic line.
The U.S. withdrawal is part of a peace agreement signed with the Taliban, which has been launching a brutal armed rebellion since stepping down in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001. The Taliban have since scaled back their attacks on the US military, but continue to target Afghan troops across the country.
Despite the threats, the community—mainly a dirt road that stretches for several kilometers—is still a vibrant and bustling home, and thousands of people know their race and geographic location, which makes them a clear target.
Fereshta, a college student from Maidan Wardak province, admitted that terror was shrouded in one of Kabul’s most crowded neighborhoods.
“You can’t get rid of fear, fear is everywhere,” the 20-year-old said outside a small grocery store nearby.
Economic diversity of the area
Fereshta blames everyone for the increasing insecurity of the Hazaras, from the Taliban (who are known to have attacked and killed thousands of Hazaras during their five-year rule) to ISIL to the Afghan government.
“When a region is repeatedly attacked within five years and the government does not actively try to protect it, it will cause a lot of problems,” said a scholar in the region who asked not to be named for security reasons.
Zainab Zafarkhil moved from Iran to Dasht-e Barchi in 2007. At that time, her family’s decision to move nearby was very simple. This is safe.
“There was a time when a suicide bombing in Barchi was unthinkable. This is the safest place in Kabul,” said the 22-year-old university student. But the recent attack reminded her of moving out of the area.
Zafarkhil’s family is an example of the economic diversity of the region. There are simple mud houses, where unpaved roads become muddy in cold winters, and huge colorful shopping centers where young people can buy pirated Gucci abayas. And the latest iPhone.
Her family is very lucky. As a business owner and government employee, Zafarkhils has the financial means to move anywhere else in the city, but for the thousands of other families in Barchi, especially those from remote provinces such as Ghor, Maidan Wardak, and Ghazni, this is fundamental Not an option.
Seven years ago, just before the violence began to heat up, Hussein and his wife Basgor moved their family from the Lal Wa Sarjangal district in central Ghor province.
They came to Barchi in 2014, hoping to provide their son with better education and economic opportunities than Ghor. However, both husband and wife know that it is almost impossible to safely return to a province with more than 130 armed groups.
“Going back will only allow us to spend more money. We just need to have the best hope here.” Hussain said that even if his family were to return to Lal Wa Sarjangal, they would not have enough financial opportunities to support the family.
What attracts people to use Dasht-e-Barchi?
Kabul researcher Qayoom Suroush said that, like Hussein and his wife, tens of thousands of families have moved to Bach from other provinces, especially because of the economy, security and culture.
“In Barchi, you are one of your own people. You don’t have to worry about social acceptance here, because everyone is like you,” Suroush said of the cultural incentives that attracted so many Hazaras to the neighborhood.
Many residents interviewed by Al Jazeera mentioned the importance of being close to their families and how living in Bach makes it easier for them to attend local religious and political gatherings, which are considered an important part of their social life.
In addition, having been living and studying in Bachi for the past 16 years, Suroush said that the quality of education of Bachi’s young people is also very important for people from some of the most insecure and undeveloped areas of the country.
“Education is very important to the Hazaras. In Bachi, you can get a quality education at a better price than other parts of Kabul,” he said. Like Surush, other residents pointed to dozens of schools, language courses, and college entrance exam preparation centers along the main road.
Even for those who are able to return to their hometown in some way, this usually means going from one unsafe area to another.
“Pashtuns against Hazaras”
Farzana Azghari lived in Balchi for most of his life.
“We moved here before I even had time to pray,” the 19-year-old told Al Jazeera. At that time, her triplets sisters Raihana, Habiba and Hakima were born. Like other young girls who grew up in Balchi, the Azgari sisters had little fear at first. They feel safe and protected in their enclave.
But in the past two years, Falzana and other Balchi residents have said that Shuhada High School has been threatened so that students themselves have begun to pat everyone who enters the school.
“For two years, none of us went to school with backpacks,” Azgari said of the fears of the residents of Bach.
When the school was indeed attacked, it was Raihana who could not live. She will be buried along with dozens of other young girls on a hillside separated by the victims of every different attack in Barchi.
Azghari said these attacks were orchestrated by groups that wanted to “make the Pashtuns against the Hazaras and the Hazaras against the Pashtuns.”
The government redoubled its emphasis on blaming the Taliban for the attacks, including school bombings. But armed groups refuted these allegations. No organization claimed responsibility for the school attack.
Recently, Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington’s special representative for reconciliation in Afghanistan, stated that ISIL troops are responsible for the school attack. ISIL claims to be responsible for most of the attacks on Hazaras, Shiite places of worship and ceremonies, as well as attacks specifically on Balchi.
College student Fereshta lost his friend in an explosion. Her teenage friend was one of 30 people killed in the bombing of the Kowsar-e Danesh Education Center in Bach in October 2020.
But she said Bach’s Hazara would stick to it.
“We are not going anywhere. We are honored and we cannot be scared away,” Feresta told Al Jazeera.
“We will show the world that Afghanistan is not a cemetery for the Afghan people.”